Playbill for Pidcock's Menagerie
Thomas Bewick (artist)
Museum no. S.516-1996
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This poster advertising a menagerie in 1795 is unusual for its date because it is illustrated with detailed engravings of animals. Late 18th century posters, if they are illustrated at all, only have small woodcut images. However, advertising for circus and menageries led the way for pictorial advertising, because they featured acts and animals that made interesting pictures. These animals are familiar to us today, but in the late 18th century, few people would ever have seen animals like this in Britain. Thomas Bewick, who drew the images, had a rare opportunity to draw animals from life in 1788. His home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was visited by a menagerie - possibly this one, owned by Thomas Pidcock, who had exhibited animals at fairs in London and the provinces since about 1769. This poster would have been expensive to produce but it was designed to be used wherever the menagerie went - it notes that the animals are appearing 'in the market place in this town', without specifying which town.